Taking the lane

I had a great experience Saturday commuting to work. I normally only ride on Hawthorne from PV to my office in Torrance in the very early morning hours because of the traffic. There are many other routes I can take to work even though Hawthorne is the fastest, and I never object to spending a few extra minutes in the saddle before the onslaught of the workday.

Yesterday, however, I had a client appointment at 1:00 PM and it was already 12:15. There would barely be enough time to get to the office and change unless I took Hawthorne on a sunny SoCal Saturday afternoon. From the top of the Hill to my office, which is just before Del Amo on Hawthorne, I took the lane. The only place I edged over to make way for traffic was on the section of Hawthorne after PV Drive North where there is a nice wide section that allows cars to pass safely at speed.

All the way on Hawthorne the traffic was incredibly dense. At first I was apprehensive, but I just took the whole right lane, and rather than scooting up the side when I caught a red light so that I could be first off the line when it turned green, I patiently waited in the car line for the light to change. The result was awesome. I had zero conflicts and didn’t even try to hammer to “keep up with the flow” which would have been impossible anyway. I’m not sure if it was because weekend traffic is less angry than weekday commuter traffic, or if this is really how “take the lane” works most of the time, but it certainly raised my confidence level and left me feeling like an equal on the road rather than a hated obstacle.

Vehicular cyclists believe that bikes are vehicles and therefore entitled to use roadways without being forced into riding like gutter bunnies, or having to navigate crazy-ass bike lanes that stop after a mile or that scrunch you into the door zone.

A good experience like Saturday gets me a lot closer to seeing it from the vehicular cycling point of view.

14 thoughts on “Taking the lane”

  1. It really is amazing how hard it is to do what’s best for everybody. Once you get over the hump, and realize that taking the lane often makes EVERYBODY safer and happier, it comes a bit easier. It isn’t for every situation, but where it makes sense, it works surprisingly well!

    1. I like what you said about it not being right for every situation. Absolutism doesn’t work as well as careful judgment.

  2. The key part is waiting in line. Taking the lane works great most of the time, but only if you never make the same car pass you twice. Great to see you out commuting (riding the ride, if you will).

    1. I’ve been commuting for over two years now, but it’s challenging to get out and take the lane, and I’m not known as a cowardly rider. (Am I?)

      1. It takes some courage the first few times, but the rewards make it the natural choice after a while.

        The first time I tried lane control, I was just sure the motorists would terrorize me for it. They didn’t. Not even a honk. They just changed lanes. And the next time, same. By the time someone did give me grief (just noise while passing safely in the next lane) I was so comfortable with lane control that it didn’t bother me at all.

        I enjoyed your story. Thanks!

        1. I had an aggro pickup buzz me this morning, very early, coming down the Hill. I had the entire lane. First he flashed his brights, then rode my rear, then swung over and passed me closely.

          For all the sturm and drang, though, it wasn’t any more dangerous than the honk of a horn.

  3. “…rather than scooting up the side when I caught a red light so that I could be first off the line when it turned green, I patiently waited in the car line for the light to change.”

    That’s the magic, right there. Sit in the exhaust six cars back from the crosswalk, and the road becomes yours. I even curse and gesticulate with a free hand, like I’m in Italy, when the minivan two cars ahead misses the signal change and slows us (motorists and me) up: “Hey, you made me jump, you made me jump like a f’ing frog…”

  4. Maybe things are different now than 20 years ago. I definitely took the lane most of the time. As slow as traffic is now, I think it might be easier???? I have mixed feelings about anyone doing this kind of riding.

    #1 it’s the main driver in the growth of cycling as an activity. It seems to have lost it’s stigma.

    #2 Look how great the last cyclavia was. Regardless of economics, a friendlier city has started, and it seems popular with voters of all kinds. That’s a good bit of progress from the “bikes as toys” autopia thinking many years ago.

    #3 Institutional friction is enormous. Let’s hope you don’t get hit and then get blamed for the accident. Those incident reports haven’t worked in favor for cyclists in the past.

    Take your time and be careful!

    1. Totally agree. And, I’d rather be creamed on a car and die or spend my life a twisted heap of vegetative tendon and bone than spend it behind the windshield of a car. They can have my bike…when they pry my cold, dead fingers off the handlebars.

  5. Drew Carlson

    As long as I’m riding close to motor vehicle traffic pace (urban and suburban areas), I think I’m safer taking the lane. I’m more visible to traffic because I’m seen where drivers expect to see other vehicles.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: